Used lithium ion battery recycling
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- Batteries containing lithium-ion should not be disposed of in household garbage or recycling bins.
- Batteries that contain lithium-ion SHOULD be disposed of at separate recycling centers or household hazardous waste collection sites
- Keep lithium-ion batteries separate in plastic bags and tape battery terminals to prevent fires.
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Used Lithium-ion Battery Recycling
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Used lithium ion battery recycling
What are lithium-ion batteries?
There are many products that use lithium-ion batteries, including electronic devices, toys, wireless headphones, handheld power tools, small and large appliances, electric vehicles, and electrical energy storage systems. It is possible for them to cause harm to human health or the environment if they are not properly managed at the end of their useful life.
Due to the high “energy density” of Li-ion batteries, this battery chemistry has become more popular in the marketplace. “Energy density” refers to how much energy a system stores in a given amount of space. While holding the same amount of energy, lithium batteries are smaller and lighter. As a result of miniaturization, consumer adoption of smaller portable and cordless devices has increased rapidly.
Information for individual consumers
Consumers in the U.S. use two types of lithium batteries: single-use, non-rechargeable lithium metal batteries and rechargeable lithium-polymer cells (Li-ion, Li-ion cells).
Li-ion batteries contain critical minerals such as cobalt, graphite, and lithium. Raw minerals are raw materials that are economically and strategically important to the United States, have a high risk of disruption, and cannot easily be substituted. We lose these critical resources when we throw away these batteries in the trash.
It is also possible to damage or crush the battery or electronic device containing the battery during transport or in the municipal recycling bin if it is placed with household recyclables like plastic, paper, or glass. This creates a fire hazard if it is disposed of in the trash or placed in the municipal recycling bin along with household recyclables.
Rather than dumping batteries in the trash or placing them in municipal recycling bins, Li-ion batteries should be recycled at battery electronics recyclers that accept batteries.
Used Non-rechargeable, single-use batteries
Cameras, watches, remote controls, handheld games, smoke detectors, and other products made with lithium metal are among the products made with lithium metal.
The word “lithium” will help you distinguish these from common alkaline battery sizes, but these batteries may also have specialized shapes (such as button cells or coin batteries) intended for specific equipment, such as cameras.
USed Li-polymer rechargeable cells (Li-ion, Li-ion batteries)
This type of battery is ubiquitously used in cellphones, power tools, digital cameras, laptops, tablets, e-cigarettes, small and large appliances, and e-readers as well as children’s toys.
Depending on the product they power, Li-ion batteries can be removed easily or not.
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Disposal and recycling of lithium-ion batteries by indiviudual consumers
EPA recommends finding a recycling facility for Li-ion batteries and products containing Li-ion batteries. You should not dispose of them in the trash or municipal recycling bins.
Li-ion batteries in electronics: Contact your local solid waste or household hazardous waste collection program for more information, or send electronic devices containing Li-ion batteries to a certified electronics recycler or retailer who participates in electronic takeback services.
Find a recycling location near you to dispose of Li-ion batteries that are easily separated from their products (e.g., power tools). Batteries can be returned to specialized battery recyclers or retailers that offer takeback services, or you can contact your local solid waste or household hazardous waste program.
Handle batteries or devices containing batteries with care: Place them individually in plastic bags. The battery’s terminals should be covered with nonconductive tape (e.g., electrical tape). For specific handling instructions when handling a damaged Li-ion battery, contact the manufacturer. It is possible for even used batteries to cause injury or start a fire. Some batteries cannot be removed or serviced by the user.
Disposal of medium and large batteries
Li-ion batteries should not be disposed of in the garbage or municipal recycling bins but should be contacted by their manufacturer, automobile dealer, or the company that installed them for management options.
Consumers may not be able to remove medium and large-scale Li-ion batteries due to their size and complexity. Pay attention to warnings and safety instructions provided by the manufacturer.
- If you bought the battery from an automobile dealer, shop, or salvage yard, contact them.
- In order to find out who installed the battery, contact the company that manufactured the energy storage equipment.
Battery Recycling for Large and Small Businesses
If lithium-ion batteries exhibit ignitability, reactivity, or toxicity when disposed of, they may meet the definition of hazardous waste under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). The RCRA defines hazardous waste generators as individuals who generate wastes that are defined as hazardous under RCRA.
However, RCRA does not apply to households, since hazardous wastes that are discarded by households are mostly exempt from RCRA’s hazardous waste regulations as hazardous wastes discarded by households are generally exempt from RCRA’s hazardous waste regulations. A commercial establishment, on the other hand, is responsible for determining whether the waste they produce is hazardous waste, including the end-of-life Li-ion batteries it produces.
In spite of the fact that lithium-ion batteries may appear almost identical but they can have very different properties as a result of their chemical compositions. It is also important to keep in mind that some discarded Li-ion batteries are more likely to have hazardous properties if they contain a significant charge, even though they may appear to be completely discharged to the user.
As a result of these factors, it can be difficult for a generator to identify which of its waste Li-ion batteries are considered to be hazardous waste when they are disposed of. Due to the uncertainty that surrounds Li-ion batteries, EPA recommends that businesses consider managing them according to the federal “universal waste” regulations in the Title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) part 273.
It is the intention of the universal waste regulations to simplify the requirements that must be met by generators of specific types of common hazardous wastes (i.e. fluorescent lamps containing mercury, batteries) from a wide variety of commercial settings. There are a variety of requirements depending on whether or not you accumulate less than 5,000 kg of universal waste on your site at one time. However, all of these requirements include instructions on how to manage the waste, how to label containers, how long the waste can remain on site, as well as where it is to be sent.
In accordance with the regulation, universal waste does not require the shipment of hazardous wastes with hazardous waste manifests, however, it does require the wastes to be sent to a permitted hazardous waste disposal facility or to a recycler. As part of the RCRA requirements for the export and import of universal waste, shipments of Li-ion batteries managed as universal waste must also comply with the requirements for the export and import of universal waste. If you would like additional information on applicable universal waste regulations, the EPA recommends that you contact your state solid and hazardous waste agencies.
It is also important to consider the RCRA “very small quantity generator” (VSQG) regulations, particularly for small businesses or those who generate small amounts of hazardous waste on a monthly basis. A business that generates less than 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of hazardous waste per month may be eligible to receive a reduction in hazardous waste requirements if it discards lithium-ion batteries.
Check with your state regulatory program prior to using the VSQG exemption, since their requirements may differ. In spite of the recommendation of the EPA that all batteries should be handled according to universal waste standards, individuals who collect or store used Li-ion batteries from households or from VSQGs should keep the batteries separate from other collected Li-ion batteries that must meet more stringent standards. In the absence of such measures, the entire commingled collection may be subjected to more stringent requirements (e.g., the standard regulations for hazardous waste generators or the streamlined universal waste requirements).